Breathing New Life into Wright of Derby’s Nymph
Mitra Amestoy, Director of Video, Worldwide
At Sotheby’s we believe that the medium of video enables us to tell the most compelling stories about the extraordinary works of art and objects that we are entrusted with year after year. It is through video that we are able to convey the sublime experience of standing in front of a vivid, monumental Richter abstract painting – or bring to life an ethereal Master painting like Joseph Wright of Derby’s An Academy by Lamplight – or share the remarkable and poignant story of the family who discovered earlier this year that they were the heirs of a Schiele masterpiece that had been lost when their great-grandmother went into hiding to save herself from Nazi persecution. The great diversity of the stories we tell through video are only possible because of the great diversity inherent in art itself.
In 2018, we have produced more video than ever before at Sotheby’s and so I have asked my team of talented producers to share their favorites from the year. Their selections underscore our belief that nothing is as inspiring as art.
No Ordinary Meal – Jacob Ochtervelt’s Radiant Masterpiece
Nigel Hilditch, Director of Video, Europe
There have been so many fascinating projects to work on in 2018, from an immersive CGI experience showcasing Jan Brueghel’s stormy seas, to the 1990s nostalgia-fest celebrating Yellowball - the collection of Damien Hirst’s legendary manager Frank Dunphy. Along the way I’ve met personal heroes like fashion designer Paul Smith, who kindly allowed us into his amazing office to film an episode of A Life Less Ordinary, and former Manchester United captain Denis Law, during our collaboration with Chivas Regal. Having a front row seat to watch the incredible Sheku Kanneh-Mason play the Rostropovich cellos was a moment I will never forget. As was collaborating with the Movember Foundation and street artist D*Face to raise awareness of men’s mental health issues.
The one film that stands above the rest for me, though, was about the 97-year-old reunited with her Nazi-looted masterpiece. It tells the story of Jacob Ochtervelt’s The Oyster Meal which was stolen by the Nazis from a bank vault in Arnhem after Operation Market Garden. The painting belonged to Dr Joan Hendrik Smidt van Gelder who, despite enormous efforts to locate his missing painting after the war, never saw ‘The Oyster Meal’ again. Its whereabouts remained unknown until just three years ago when it was discovered hanging in the Lord of Mayor of London’s official residence at Mansion House. The Commission for Looted Art in Europe arranged for the 97-year-old daughter of Dr Van Gelder to view the work, which she immediately recognised as the one that had hung over the mantelpiece in her father’s waiting room. It was an honour to meet Mrs Charlotte Bischoff van Heemskerck in Amsterdam and to hear first-hand her vivid recollection of what it was like growing up during World War 2 and to see her joy at finally being reunited with this long lost family heirloom.
Rapper and Producer A$AP Rocky and Artist Ai Weiwei on Art & Fearlessness
Robert Chew, Video Producer, New York
One of the most rewarding films that we produced in 2018 was our collaboration with rapper and producer A$AP Rocky and artist and activist Ai Weiwei. We produced this film, the centerpiece of our Fearless Now campaign, to bring to life the idea that courage is the quality that defines great art. Both Rocky and Ai Weiwei have overcome significant obstacles in order to produce art that has been considered controversial and groundbreaking – and deeply compelling.
Despite the differences in their creative methods, backgrounds, and age – and despite the challenges presented by not being able to film them in the same location – they communicated their shared belief that art is central to humanity.
Gregory Esposito, Video Production Administrator, New York
I found the episode of A Life Less Ordinary featuring the personal wine collection of Robert Drouhin especially compelling. It chronicles the history of the family-run Maison Joseph Drouhin from their founding in 1880 to present day. Although we cannot taste and smell the wine ourselves, we come to appreciate its greatness by virtue of Robert Drouhin’s rendition. How in 1928, Maurice Drouhin secured the rights to be the sole distributors of the legendary Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in France and Belgium. How as a boy, Robert learned to distinguish Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits from his father. Or how the Drouhin family, fearing persecution from the Nazis, sealed off part of their inventory by erecting a false wall in the cellar. Through this we understand why a single bottle of 1945 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from this cellar became the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold.
What’s an Old Master Copy and Why Should You Buy One?
James Fox, Production Assistant, London
The world of Old Masters Copies can be somewhat confusing with its descriptions of works that include phrases such as ‘Follower of’ or ‘Manner of.’ For those without a background in Art History such as myself it is difficult to know what these phrases mean. Our video, What’s an Old Master Copy and Why Should You Buy One? provides engaging and informative answers for questions about how lesser-known artists interpreted works by some of the greatest names in art history such as Breugel, Rubens and Canaletto. It also explains why these copies are works of art unto themselves.